Olympic champion and Sussex resident Sally Gunnell shares memories of Prince Philip: ‘He would always crack a joke’
Olympic gold medallist and Sussex resident Sally Gunnell OBE has reflected on the times she met and spoke with Prince Philip, who, she said, ‘would always crack a joke’.
The 54-year-old, who lives in Fulking, Mid Sussex with her husband, John, 55, and their three sons, paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh this week and said ‘he was a great man who will be sadly missed’.
And she told the Middy: “He was very quick witted and would always crack a joke.
“I also never realised how sporty he was, he knew so much about athletics and running, you could tell he had the knowledge.”
Sally, who remains the only woman to hold the World, Olympic, European, and Commonwealth Gold Medals at the same time, said she was once invited to Buckingham Palace after winning her gold medals.
“I thought it was going to a large banquet. It turned out to be a small dinner of just 12 people – the Queen, Nigel Mansell, a couple of actors – and the Duke of Edinburgh, whom I sat next to.
“All I remember was feeling so out of my comfort zone but they made me feel so comfortable. It was a really intimate setting.”
Here, she said the duke ‘led the table’ and made everyone feel relaxed with his ‘little jokes and one liners’.
“I remember talking to him about all the training I was doing and what was involved,” added Sally.
“And I remember seeing how much he supported the Queen.”
She said on one occasion she brought her family to Buckingham Palace for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.
“I remember him [Prince Philip] saying to my parents how proud they must be of me. They were blown away. To be able to take my family was just amazing.”
And she said being in the grounds of Buckingham Palace was an incredible experience: “It is beautiful, the history of it all. They give you a really good tour beforehand and explain all the pictures and history of it all.
“I’ve never been in anything like it in my life. I was quite young the first time and I remember feeling a bit scared!”
Sally also spoke about meeting the Queen, who she described as ‘amazing’.
“She is just how you would expect really. She was always very knowledgeable again – and despite the huge amount of people she meets, she always had time for you.
“And she was very relaxed. It was amazing how relaxed you felt there – you could have done anything and they wouldn’t have pulled you up on it.”
She said Prince Philip’s death on Friday (April 9), hit her more than she thought it would, but she has enjoyed hearing more about him and his incredible life.
“It makes me think how lucky and fortunate I was to have met him,” added Sally.
“I have really enjoyed seeing pictures of him through the ages and thinking about what he looked like when I met him in the 90s. It has dug up some great memories.
“And although something like this is very sad, it has given us time to reflect which is important for everybody.”
Sally is originally from Essex, but moved to Sussex a number of years ago. Before Fulking, she and her family were living in Steyning.
She spoke about what it has been like living through the pandemic: “I think we are very lucky where we live, we always get out.
“My husband coaches elite athletics, so I think in some respect our lives have been normal but it has been challenging at times. A lot of my work has been on Zoom, so like everyone else, I am looking forward to getting out again.”